EU Science Hub

Safer borders: towards certified detection equipment against illicit trafficking

Feb 17 2014

The JRC has just launched the second phase of the Illicit Trafficking Radiation Detection Assessment Programme (ITRAP+10), which will focus on testing mobile radiation detection equipment and investigating the integration of radiological, nuclear and explosives detection techniques. By organising a proficiency test, phase II takes a step towards the establishment of a network of accredited laboratories in the EU, able to certify radiation detection equipment against international or European Standards.

It will also provide valuable information on radiation detection and identification instruments, which are essential for customs controls at borders and harbours, and for the screening of passengers and cargo at airports. Manufacturers will also gain insights that may allow them to improve their equipment. The lessons learned during the first phase will feed the improvement of the standards in view of the adoption of the IEC standards as European Standards by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC).

During phase I (2009-2013), the JRC tested 65 detection instruments commercially available in Europe. They came from all major manufacturers, who participated at the Call for expression of Interest launched by the JRC via the EU Official Journal and provided a representative view of the market. Some of them were also tested in the U.S. to assure comparability. Results showed that none of these instruments fully passed all the tests, which were based on the international standards established by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This stressed the need to stimulate the improvement of the equipment by giving feedback to the manufacturers, as well as the need to provide active input to the standardisation organisations in order to simplify and clarify existing standards.

This first part of the project was carried out in partnership with the U.S. government and the IAEA, which conducted a parallel test. In addition, the JRC designed and provided irradiator devices to ensure that the many exposures were performed in a reproducible way.


Within the EU's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Action Plan, ITRAP+10 is a project focusing on performance assessment of radiation detection equipment used to intercept illicit trafficking of radioactive sources and nuclear material.

The European Commission's Directorate-General for Home Affairs (DG HOME) launched the first phase of ITRAP+10, this time involving the JRC as well as the IAEA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Phase II of the project will be only carried out by the European Commission's DG HOME and DG JRC, in close cooperation with the US counterparts

At the end of January 2014, the official kick-off meeting of the II phase of ITRAP+10 project took place, bringing together European and American experts in order to exchange knowledge, good practices and lessons learnt for the successful implementation of the second phase of the project.